Communities Need a Facilitator

So, we’ve talked about how when communities have a common cause/topic and a platform for people to connect on that you have the start of something powerful.    Without a facilitator, it’s easy for communities to die off after the initial excitement or for them to be taken over by  specific personalities.

You’ll notice that I didn’t say community manager.   I think of it less as management and that you’re really there to make a safe place for conversations (or really connections) between people to exist in a way where both users  feel safe.

My dad works with an international student ministry at Michigan State University called the Friendship House.  Him and the Executive Director Rich are community facilitators.  Their first job isn’t to teach English as a second language.    It’s to create a place where the magic can happen and making sure all the right people show up.  It’s about setting up the table & chairs.  It’s about making sure the coffee is brewing in the back of the room.

As I’ve said before, I manage the DC Tech Facebook Group. It has more than 1700 people who want to be able to share & consume information about what’s happening within the technology & startup sectors within the Washington, DC area.

When you have that many people (and even when you have fewer), your community is wrought with all kinds of potential issues.  People just want to showboat about themselves, which is good in small doses but can be overdone.   Certain personalities will dominate conversations.  Things will get posted that are irrelevant.

You need a community facilitator.  You need someone who’s going to uphold guidelines of conduct that help the community to operate more smoothly.   Granted enforcing these guidelines might not be taken lightly by the offending party but you have to do it for the greater good of the community.

Looking to start a community?  Instead of trying to lead, try stepping into the background.   Be the facilitator.

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